Cecil Beaton’s Diaries – Greenside Nicolson’s Square, Edinburgh

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

Writer: Cecil Beaton

Adaptor: Richard Stirling 

Director: Richard Stirling 

A show of one man talking about himself, which Beaton (Richard Stirling) loved to do. He begins by giving an introduction to his life as Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton, later CBE, born in 1904 in Hampstead to a wealthy family. His nanny who had a Kodak Bownie first introduced him to photography, seeing his interest, she encouraged him. He relates how apart from his society photography, photographing everyone from the Queen to film stars and many famous celebrities, in his 76 years he also was a war photographer, writer, painter, diarist, interior designer and award-winning stage and film costume and set designer.

Stirling speaks of Beaton’s good relationships with sisters Baba, Nancy and brother Reggie, being devastated when Reggie was killed in the First World War. After studying history art and architecture at Cambridge he left without a degree and decided, when his timber merchant father lost everything, that he would have to become rich. The audience gain a great insight into his family life.

Beaton first photographed his sister and after becoming acquainted with The Sitwells, Edith asked for him to photograph and so his fame began. He was soon invited to design theatre sets, and costumes, winning Oscars for films like My Fair Lady and Gigi. Stirling recounts stories from an amazing list of those Beaton met and photographed, like the adorable Marilyn Monroe and many he did not approve of like the Burton, disclosing their personal characters.

Largely an autobiographical account of Beaton’s life, concentrating mainly on his work, with personal snippets, like his numerous affairs ranging from one with Olympic fencer Kinmont Hoitsman to Adele Astaire and Greta Garbo, one of the great loves of his life along with the greatest Gareth McCloud.

“I have tried to develop my intellect but it is mainly a large screen through my eyes that I have worked”. Regarding screens, the show was 20minutes late starting due to technical difficulties resulting in a much-reduced projection on a large screen making many images difficult to see. The excellence of Stirling’s performance and stage presence made up for this, holding the audience in his hand. Listening to him he makes you feel you are having a private audience with Beaton himself.

Stirling moves effortlessly around the stage from prop to prop as if it were his home.

A collection of photographs at the show was accompanied with very atmospheric music and some occasional background musical effects during the performance may enhance the show even further”.. Life has not treated me very badly but then I have not treated it badly either” The 55 minutes flies by.  “be daring, be different, be impractical”, Beaton certainly was, as this delightful, intimate, personal performance shows.

Runs till 27 August 2022

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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